Despite it being a series that’s widely praised not only among it’s loyal fan base but also among circles of gaming critics, I’ve never dived too deep into any of the titles from the Nier or Drakengard series. That is until I saw that Nier: Automata, the entry I see so commonly praised was coming to the Switch. I knew it was now or never to see what all the hype was about. And boy am I glad I did. On a surface level I knew it was a pretty sure bet that I’d at least like the game. It ticks a lot of the boxes for what I love. Great character designs, JRPG elements, anime-style story plots, but I wasn’t prepared for the scale of how well these elements would all come together while sitting on top of some really rewarding gameplay despite all the praise I knew it had. Nier Automata managed to exceed expectations, even after I was already expecting a pretty great game.
I’d often been told from those that had played the game to just jump in without looking to much into the actual plot of the game. After playing the game, that’s the exact same advice I’m going to pass on to anyone that may be reading this that is in the same position I was in. Without spoiling too much, the story of Nier: Automata is set in a far post-apocalyptic future where humans have developed androids to fight an invading force of alien machines before moving mankind off-planet. The game takes place in the midst of this war and we primarily follow the perspective of androids 2B and 9S as they explore the world, completing their assigned tasks while also uncovering the truth about the war and the many mysteries it contains. The story is truly captivating, full of twists and turns and was right up my alley. I can see how it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but as a big fan of anime trope plots fuelled by uncovering mysteries, Nier: Automata had me consistently wanting to proceed just to work out what would happen next.
Even though Nier: Automata is a piece of a wider universe of games, it’s not essential that you’ve played other Nier or Drakengard titles to understand what’s going on. It works and maintains the impact of it’s storytelling as a standalone title, but has now piqued my interest in checking out the other titles that tie into the same universe too.
Automata provides more than just an interesting story to uncover and make your way through though. Playing the game itself is definitely part of the overall experience that takes everything to the next level. It just feels great to play. The game is primarily a fast paced action game but outside of the amazingly fast, particle effect heavy combat sequences, Automata features some great traversal mechanics that allow you to navigate and explore the world and also double as systems that are used to enhance the verticality of the world and it’s platforming puzzles. The gameplay itself is also varied, often switching genre itself and utilises clever camera transitions to provide gameplay change ups and framing for specific environments. This kept things so engaging as you don’t know what the next mission, boss battle or environment will feature next. On top of all of this there is also a layer of RPG mechanics thrown in allowing you to upgrade and tweak the load out, appearance and skills of your playable characters that can be quite finely tuned and optimised as you progress through the game and get stronger.
On top of a great story and/or characters, another thing that gets me invested in a game’s world is it’s sound. Nier: Automata really delivers when it comes to it’s overall sound design and it’s soundtrack. From the clang of the machines moving throughout the world, to the slushing of the sand as you speedily slide down sand dunes the world of Nier feels alive despite how rundown and decrepit many of the ruins actually appear. The game’s soundtrack is also a piece of art on it’s own, really providing another layer of immersion with much of it’s score pushing the tone of the scenes they’re utilised in and it’s a wide range of emotions, which you’ll discover as you play through yourself. The action scenes, emotional scenes, soft tranquil scenes, all have a fitting score that really helps sell the tone and it’s a soundtrack I’ll be going back to on it’s own for sure. The performances of the characters are also delivered expertly and match the tone and attitudes of the characters they’re portraying, with special shout outs to Kira Buckland and Kyle McCarley as 2B and 9S respectively.
As for the game specifically on the Nintendo Switch. Automata’s port has been handled incredibly well overall. It isn’t a lower resolution fuzzy port that is often seen in other AAA Switch ports, the game overall looks impressively great. Performance has been lowered to a consistent 30fps and outside of very few drops, it maintained a smooth framerate overall. Some of the textures may have been downgraded as some areas contain low resolution, muddy assets but it’s still an all round technical feat and isn’t noticeable when playing in handheld mode unless you purposely go looking to criticise. I was surprised at just how well everything came together overall, and for those looking to jump in for the first time, or experience the game again but in a portable fashion, I can absolutely recommend the Switch port. The End of Yorha edition also comes with the 3C3C1D119440927 DLC as well as some Switch exclusive costumes, skins and accessories to provide some added incentive to pick up the newest release.
I had the feeling going in that I would really like Nier: Automata, but I wasn’t ready for just how much. It’s packed with great character moments, an interesting world and mysteries to uncover that will keep you pushing on. The game itself is designed to be played through multiple times to uncover everything that it has to offer, it’s FAR from over when you hit the credits screen for the first time, so do as the game suggests and jump back in again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It features 26 different endings, some far more rewarding and significant than others but all providing another perspective or something new on the story overall. If you’re interested in playing, just jump in and do it, it’s well worth your time.
A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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